Benitez coy on Mascherano interest

Rafa Benitez has distanced himself from reports linking Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano with a move to Napoli.

Benitez's side were considered one of the favourites to claim the title last summer, but will have to make do with a third-place finish after an inconsistent season.
 
The 54-year-old coach has admitted his admiration for Mascherano, having signed the 29-year-old for Liverpool in 2007, but says he would prefer to focus on the need for his current squad to lift their games.
 
“Mascherano? He is a great player, but I do not like to talk about it now because he is still at Barcelona and has to try to win something with his club,” he told Casa Napoli.
 
“For the fans who criticise [owner] Aurelio De Laurentiis I say to look at where Napoli were seven years ago and where they are now.
 
“The difficulty now is in taking the next step. We are at a high level, but we still face the most difficult step. Trying to stay at this level and going higher is not easy. We will try and this is important.
 
“We are trying to create a structure. A strong squad and a structure behind it will allow us to win.
 
“We know that we need players with different characteristics to those in the squad. Henrique and [Faouzi] Ghoulam have given us greater balance in defence and given us even greater security in the air.”


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